Industrialization via Utilization: Turning Plastic Waste Into Fencing In Kenya

By Steven J. Smith Published: July 31, 2013, 9:40 am
Lorna Rutto

Lorna Rutto is changing the world, one fence post at a time.

Rutto’s company, EcoPost, collects plastic waste and manufactures fencing posts. Founded in 2010, EcoPost accommodates Kenya’s high demand for posts, which provide fencing around the country’s game reserves, plantations, and houses.

“Our aim is to create a sustainable solution to the growing plastic waste menace, create an alternative to timber and job opportunities,” Rutto said. “We use waste plastic as a resource to manufacture eco-friendly plastic lumber. We are committed to environmental excellence integrated with a business wide approach to sustainability.”

EcoPost, based in Ruaraka, Kenya, turns dirty plastic into a product that not only saves wood, but boosts employment as well — all the while preserving the two percent of Kenya’s precious, shrinking forest cover.

Every month, the company converts approximately 20 tons of plastic waste into a product that saves wood. This effort results in both an environmental plus and a boost to employment.

Alongside its permanent staff of 15, EcoPost hires hundreds of local women working as casual labor. They collect the raw plastic and sell it to EcoPost by the kilo. The company in turn converts the plastic into a lumber product that is immune to insects, does not promote mold growth, will not splinter, and outlasts timber.

“Our product offers long term effectiveness due to reduced maintenance and replacement,” Rutto said. “It requires no chemical treatment to prolong service as compared to timber, thus reduces chemical pollution in both land and marine applications.”

Demand for the product is so high that EcoPost is seeking capital influx to scale up its operation. It has already acquired a new extrusion machine that will double current output to 7,200 posts per quarter — an eightfold increase since the company began.

Rising timber prices also ensure greater growth potential. That means more jobs are on the horizon.

“We have made over $120,000 in just two years,” Rutto said. “So the business is very profitable and sustainable. And this has enabled us to create over 300 job opportunities.”

Just as impressive is EcoPost’s positive impact on the environment.

“We withdrew and utilized over 1.5 million kilograms of plastic waste from the environment and prevented over 2.5 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions from the environment providing superior alternative to timber,” Rutto said. “This helped to protect over 500 acres of land as we have produced and sold over 100,000 posts.”

EcoPost produces more than just fence posts. The company also manufactures cattle enclosures, garages, shipping pallets, feed troughs, flowerpots and planters, garbage receptacles, road signage, playground equipment, floor decking, boardwalks, and truck flooring.

For her efforts, Rutto and her company have received numerous awards from such organizations as Common Pitch South Africa, Colorado’s Unreasonable Institute, and the Cartier Women’s Initiative, to name a few.

But accolades are not what she’s about. She wants to change the world.

“We help to promote conservation through recycling and protection of our forested areas through retaining forest cover, as we will no longer need much timber for posts,” she said. “We cleanse the environment by collecting plastics that would otherwise been left to litter our streets, open fields and clog our sewers. This offers an alternative solid waste management solution, considering that more than 1,200 metric tons a day of solid waste is not collected in major cities like Nairobi.”

Rutto also wants to eliminate poverty by providing job opportunities to women’s groups, youth groups, and the underprivileged.

“Our goal is to promote industrialization through utilization of local resources and using appropriate technologies to deliver useful products and services,” she said.

 

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